Retail Beat

Wolf Camera plans merger with largest U.S. photo retailer

Atlanta-based Wolf Camera Inc., the second-largest U.S. photo retailer, has agreed to sell its assets to longtime competitor Ritz Camera Centers Inc., the nation's largest photo retailer. Wolf Camera filed an asset sale motion in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Georgia, to merge with the Beltsville, Md.-based company.

Following the merger, the combined entity will be based in Beltsville, which is located in the Washington, D.C., area. The company will have more than 1,300 stores in 48 states, with 12,000-plus employees. The Wolf Camera brand will remain in many of the company's established markets, including Atlanta, where Ritz Camera stores will be converted to the Wolf Camera brand.

Layoffs are anticipated at Wolf Camera's corporate headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga., an Atlanta suburb. Founder and CEO Chuck Wolf will assume the title of vice chairman of Ritz Camera and will direct all of the company's retail sales efforts. The company's distribution facility in Alpharetta will remain open as part of the merged company's operation. More than 80 Wolf Camera workers are employed in the distribution facility.

Wolf Camera, a privately held company that has been in business for more than 27 years, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June due to integration problems stemming from its 1998 acquisition of Fox Photo.

General Growth purchases another mall in Tucson area

Chicago-based General Growth Properties Inc. has acquired Tucson Mall in Tucson, Ariz., for $180 million from a partnership that includes Forest City Enterprises Inc., Cleveland. General Growth obtained financing with a short-term acquisition loan and an advance from its revolving line of credit. The company plans to secure a long-term, non-recourse permanent mortgage loan to replace a majority of the interim funding.

The mall produces sales of approximately $411 per sq. ft., and is projected to generate $15 million of net operating income during calendar year 2002.

Originally developed in 1982 and expanded in 1991, the two-level, 1.3 million sq. ft. mall is anchored by Macy's, Robinson-May, Dillard's, Mervyn's, JCPenney and Sears. The center contains 409,000 sq. ft. of shop space and is 92% occupied.

Tucson Mall is the second mall in Tucson to be purchased by the giant REIT. In 1996, General Growth acquired Park Place, a 1.3 million sq. ft. shopping center located on the east side of Tucson.

Polaris Fashion Place attracts 29 new tenants to central Ohio

Glimcher Realty Trust, a Columbus, Ohio-based REIT, is set to open Polaris Fashion Place in late October. Located at the intersection of Interstate 71 and Polaris Parkway in Columbus, the super-regional fashion mall will debut with seven department stores and approximately 150 other retailers and restaurants. At more than 1.5 million sq. ft., Polaris Fashion Place will be the region's largest mall.

Twenty-nine tenants are new to the Columbus market, including four anchors: Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Kaufmann's and The Great Indoors. Other mall anchors include Lazarus, JCPenney and Sears.

Women's fashion and apparel stores new to the market include Ann Taylor Loft, bebe, C.J. Banks, Charlotte Russe, Christopher & Banks, Coldwater Creek, Forever21, J Jill and Wet Seal. Other tenants new to Columbus include Ticknors, Strasburg Children, EB Kids, Keds, Sole Outdoors, Sports Fanatics, Swim 'n Sport, West 49, L'Occitane, Ashcroft and Oak, The Picture People, Mayors, Le Petite Bistro, Molly Woo's restaurant and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

Konover sells outlet portfolio to Chelsea for $180 million

Konover Property Trust Inc. of Raleigh, N.C., has entered into an agreement to sell a 4.3 million sq. ft. shopping center portfolio to Chelsea Property Group Inc., Roseland, N.J., for $180 million. The portfolio consists of 28 outlet centers and three community centers in 18 states. The deal is expected to close prior to Sept. 30.

Concurrent with the sale of the portfolio, Konover will refinance existing debt with a new first mortgage of approximately $60 million obtained from CDC Mortgage Capital Inc. and to be secured by 14 shopping centers. Also as part of the transaction, approximately $165 million of debt secured by the properties being sold will be paid down. Konover plans to concentrate solely on its community center portfolio, which will include 38 centers in six Southeastern states for a total of 5.1 million sq. ft.

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